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Dialogue bteween Civilizations in Elmandjara perspective

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Dialogue bteween Civilizations in Elmandjara perspective

Post by OULGOUT Abdelouahed on Thu Dec 04, 2008 8:19 am

In the speech he delivered in the 18th General IPRA Conference Challenges for peace in the 21st century, Tampere, Finland, 2002, the professor Mahdi Emandjara shed light on the question of the international dialogue and its implications. Dialogue, which is “the capacity to listen to the other” (Elmandjara, 2002), has always been one of the major concerns of Elmandjara. In this essay, the light will be shed on his perspective about the requirements of “the true dialogue” as well as its reality and future prospects.
1-Dialogue in Elmandjara’s perspective
a- Cultural communication
As for Elmandjara, communication among cultures is the best way to maintain understanding and preserve cultural diversity. It is the backbone of dialogue and the keyword by which to avoid more civlizational wars. As he clearly put it:

“Dialogue necessitates communication especially cultural communication- that is a mutual understanding and respect of the values of the other in addition to a capacity to listen because dialogue is an unending learning process. It is the best prevention against misunderstandings and ‘clash’” (2004)

Dialogue is, thus, a vehicle for the maintenance of peace and tolerance. It is further a basic ingredient for peace and survival because it is an essential condition for the preservation of diversity. In contrast, “The absence of communication and cultural tolerance is what threatens peace in the next coming years” (Elmandjara, 2007). For Elmandjara, dialogue, and not clash of civilizations, is “an ideal without which we can not ensure the conditions for a viable survival” (2001, p.51).
b- Cultural humility
The other condition on which Elmandjara put stress on is cultural humility. It is one of the basic requirements of cultural communication. As he broadly suggested it:

“‘Since wars have become the expression of cultural arrogance, cultural humility is now the new name of peace’. Cultural humility is important because it enhances the capacity to listen to the other. Our concern today is with dialogue as related to civilization hence to cultural values. They determine the form and the content of that dialogue and condition the search for peace” (2001, p.49-50)

On the light of this citation, dialogue is synonymous with peace. It is the password to get into the world of mutual understanding. Yet when one part claims to be superior to the other exerting his cultural arrogance over him, then no peaceful dialogue would take place. Dialogue, if it is to give its fruits, should prevail on an equally common ground. The later, which is the international scene in this case, must welcome all the participants no matter what their civilizational roots are. Wars have recently begun to reflect a sort of cultural arrogance, and, therefore, we should insist on the establishment of cultural humility. The rejection of any civilizational superiority, Elmandjara assures, is the right key for peaceful co-existence (1996, p.97).
c- Freedom
According to Elmandjara, “freedom is the basic data which a living organism uses to defend itself” (2001, p.18). Freedom as a concept must get rid of any conceptual sophism which tends to keep it as an ink in the papers or in the programmes of governments and parties. Freedom rather exists in mind. “It is lived as a personal and collective initiative within a free atmosphere either in houses, universities, or other elbows where people meet” (Elmandjara, 2001, p.17).
d- Dignity
The establishment of dialogue among nations also necessitates the sense of dignity. The later is tightly connected to the previous element, which is freedom. As for Elmandjara, dignity exists when people are given the right to practise their freedom, express their views and also live within just and respectful conditions. When these conditions are absent, humanity is exposed to a serious ethical crisis. As Elmandjara aptly put it:
“We are living a real ethical crisis, which magnifies the bad effects of all kinds of humiliation, and it is the result of poverty, illiteracy, disease, the absence of fully social justice, and the deviation of human rights”(2005, p.10)

Dignity, therefore, is a human component and a preliminary condition for dialogue and cultural communication. Thus, the “war on values” in terms of cultural assimilation, deprivation and violation of human rights constitutes what Elmandjara describes as most dangerous because it involves a war against the values system and properties.
e- Preservation of diversity
Being an expert in prospective studies, Enlmandjara assures that the preservation of cultural diversity is one of his major concerns. The cultural dominance of the north over the south creates a huge gap between the two, and herby communication often turns into a sort of crisis in the identity of the powerless whose financial capacity is not enough to preserve and promote the prospects of his culture. Having described the cultural difference between the North and the South, Elmandjara suggests three ways for the promotion of prospective studies as far as the preservation of cultural diversity is concerned:
e-1 Democratization of prospective studies
In order to develop and preserve cultural diversity, prospective studies should be democratised. They should not be limited to the technocrats who don’t consider the wills and prospects of the citizens (Elmandjara, 1996, p.40). Therefore, the question of cultural diversity pertains to the democratization of prospective studies at the national, regional and international level since there is a huge gap between precedence and participation..
e- 2 Special pedagogic efforts
Also the preservation of cultural diversity requires that more special pedagogic efforts are made. As Elmandjara aptly put it:

“The emphasis on cultural diversity in prospective studies requires special pedagogic efforts. It needs the adaptation of mind’s structures” (1996, p.41)

By this Elmandjara means that in order to preserve cultural diversity a nation in terms of its politicians should have a clear vision about how to manage the diversity of its cultures and avoid the marginalization of one on behalf of another. This, Elmandjara argues, is of grave importance as far as the development of a country is concerned.

f-3 Freedom
In addition to the previous conditions, Elmandjara assures that the preservation of cultural diversity will flourish if there is no freedom, which opens new horizons for cultural diversity to grow up. As he briefly put it:
“Without freedom there is no diversity” (1996, p.41)
Freedom, therefore, is a “human accumulation” without which diversity would never exist. It is the key to the proliferation of various rich human perspectives.
2-The present reality of dialogue on the international scene
Many reasons have contributed to the decrease of the values of dialogue on the international scene today. In his declaration about this issue, Elmandjara noted that “there is very little universal dialogue presently on the international scene” (2001, p.41). The main reason behind this has been the western economic, political, cultural, and technological domination over the third world countries. This, of course, has several aspects, and it involves a set of arrogant practices that enlarges the gap between the North and the South, the rich and the poor, the western and the non-western…
a- Exclusion and marginalization
One of the problems that deter dialogue among the North and South, Elmandjara argues, is marginalization. A short look at the international scene is enough to come up with the huge and unbalanced relationship between the industrial and non-industrial countries. In this vein, Elamndjra says:

“The most tangible dialogue going on in the world today is the one among the « haves » between themselves bilaterally and regionally. As a consequence, the feeble tradition and practice of the universal dialogue which evolved very slowly within the praxis of the United Nations is shriveling” (2001, p. 41)

This quotation shows us how the scope of dialogue is limited to one part over the other. Hence communication lacks one of the basic requirements in whatever dialogue: participation or involvement. Elmandjara continues saying:

“We find an even more marked pattern of unbalanced and non-universal decision making at the economic and financial level. An ensemble made up of the World Bank, the International Monitory Fund and the “G8” (the eight most industrial countries) monopolizes the major part of the assessments, the pronouncements and the international actions in these key areas while 80% of mankind watches passively on the sidelines” (2001, p. 41)

All of this leaves very little room for a serious dialogue between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.
b- Globalization and social injustice
Elmandjara defines globalization as “simply the Americanization of the globe”*. It is the manifestation of the American and western domination over the third world countries. Among the aspects that stamp the reality of dialogue on the international scene are globalization and the social and economic injustice in the international relations.
“Twenty percent of the richest people of the world consume 85% of the 48 least developed countries is inferior to the assets of the three richest persons in the world. The total amount required to provide basic education for everyone in the world is 6$ billion dollars- it represents 75% of what the Americans spend on cosmetics and 50% of what Europeans spend on ice cream. It is not appropriate to raise the issue on the insolvency of “the development” ritual and its policies and programs. Disparities of such proportions pave the way for numerous forms of clashes” (2001, p.46)

These features surely reveal that the economic injustice in terms of disparities of proportions contribute, in a way or another, to the absence of dialogue and cultural communication among nations of different economic powers. The promises of globalization have gone with the wind, and the gap between the poor and the rich is getting more and wider.
c-The incredibility of the international system
The United Nations, which is apparently an embodiment of the international dialogue, begun to loose its credibility among the international society. In this respect, Elmandjara argues that,

“The serve changes in power relations witnessed during the last decade have emaciated this basic of the institution, its aura and its potentialities. We can either recognize this unfortunate development, draw the conclusions it calls for and think about remedies, or we can either go on closing our eyes and<waiting wishfully for a wind of change and reform.” (2001, p.46)

As long as the present huge unbalance of power, resulting from the new unipolarity persists, the UN system, with the exception of a small number of specialized agencies and programs, can not be expected to serve as a reliable and credible framework for a “dialogue of civilizations” nor as an efficient instrument for the maintenance and the building of peace.
OULGOUT Abdelouahed
OULGOUT Abdelouahed

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